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Leland's Jamie Nolan (4) makes a shot on goal past Pioneer's Megan Chovanec (21) as Leland H.S. plays Pioneer in girls water polo at Willow Glen H.S. in San Jose Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012. Leland is the defending CCS Division I champion. (Patrick Tehan/Staff)

Jamie Nolan approached this season just looking to have fun. The Leland standout helped the Chargers win a section title as a junior -- a dream come true, she says -- and really wanted to enjoy her final season at the school.

Leland didn't repeat as Central Coast Section champion this fall, losing to St. Francis in the Division I final, but Nolan had a season to remember.

She finished with 112 goals, 64 assists, 90 steals and 47 drawn ejections on a team that had only eight players. For this, she is the Mercury News girls water polo player of the year.

"I always knew she had talent," Leland coach Eric Rise said. "But she went to another level."

Nolan follows in the footsteps of her sister Kelsey, the Mercury News player of the year in 2009, and former teammate Samantha Murphy, the newspaper's player of the year last season.

Nolan spent more time on the defensive side in 2011, trying to set up Murphy, the team's top scorer. But with Murphy having moved on to UC Santa Barbara, Nolan's role changed.

"I knew I needed to pick it up and score," she said.

Nolan will play next season at the University of Michigan, where she and her sister will team together for the first time since Jamie was a freshman at Leland. Kelsey Nolan led Michigan to an 11th consecutive division championship last spring.

"I would have gone to Michigan with or without her there," said Jamie Nolan, who is considering an engineering major.


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But her presence "just kind of opened my eyes to the East Coast," she added. "I looked at other East Coast schools, like the Ivies, but then when I went on my trip to Michigan, I knew that's where I wanted to be -- all the school spirit and the great academics, just everything about it."

Nolan, who also took recruiting trips to Brown and Princeton and considered Harvard, began her water polo journey in middle school -- again following her sister's footsteps. Soon, she knew the sport was her calling, too.

"I had been playing soccer, and then my sister got into water polo," Nolan said. "My mom signed me up, and I realized I am meant for the water. I am not coordinated on land."

Nolan's contributions this season took Leland on another run through the CCS playoffs as the Chargers defeated San Benito and Menlo-Atherton to reach the final. But in a rematch of last season's championship match, Leland lost to St. Francis 8-3.

"It was a tough loss," Nolan said. "But I was still proud of our team and what we accomplished in the year."

All-Mercury News
girls Water Polo

First team
Jamie Nolan, Leland, Sr.
Carla Tocchini, St. Ignatius, Sr.
Sami Strutner, St. Francis, Jr.
Caroline Anderson, Gunn, Jr.
Courtney Batcheller, St. Francis, Jr.
Katherine Moore, St. Francis, Jr.
Tegan Stanbach, St. Francis, Sr.
Caitlin Stuewe, Sacred Heart Prep, Jr.
Katie Peck, Leland, Sr.
Second team
Sierra Sheeper, Menlo-Atherton, Jr.
Cathleen Cantoni, Archbishop Mitty, Sr.
Alison Griffeth, Leland, Sr.
Francesca Puccinelli, St. Ignatius, Sr.
Keri Clifford, Harker, Sr.
Kira Tomlinson, Burlingame, Sr.
Bridgette Harper, Sacred Heart Prep, Sr.
Lesley Kerley, Presentation, Sr.
P.J. Bigley, Sacred Heart Prep, Sr.
Honorable mention
Kelly Moran, Sacred Heart Prep; Susan Providenza, St. Ignatius; Nicole Reynolds, Burlingame; Morgan McCracken, Sacred Heart Prep; Rachel Vaughn-Hulbert, Willow Glen; Anna Yu, Castilleja; Claudia Macedo, Valley Christian; Gabby Whetstone, Santa Teresa; Sabrina Sherrin, Archbishop Mitty; Jessica Heilman, Menlo-Atherton; Jenna Swartz, Menlo-Atherton; Eela Nagaraj, St. Francis; Tina Samson, Leland; Allison Larko, Los Gatos; Lauren Lesyna, Gunn; Diana Hatamian, Leland; Brittany Kirwan, St. Francis.